Yes' Alan White

The progressive-rock band Yes was at the forefront of the art-rock movement when it began in the late '60s. The group weathered many lineup changes and has remained a viable recording and touring entity to the present day.

Alan White, Yes' drummer from mid-1972 to the present, was born 50 years ago today in Pelton, England. He began playing piano as a child, then switched to drums as a teen and played in local bands.

In 1968, White joined Ginger Baker's Air Force, a group run by and named after the former drummer of Cream, which also featured Steve Winwood of Traffic. White also played in his own side band during this period.

John Lennon called on White to join the Plastic Ono Band, his first non-Beatles group, in 1969, and White played the famous "Live Peace in Toronto" concert that resulted in the LP of the same name. The band also included Yoko Ono, Eric Clapton, and Klaus Voorman. White continued working with Lennon, appearing on his "Instant Karma" single and the Imagine album (1971). White also played on George Harrison's All Things Must Pass (1970).

White became one of the industry's most sought-after session drummers and joined Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen. While touring with that band, White received an offer to replace Bill Bruford in Yes, then the most popular art-rock group in the world.

Yes began in 1968 and had slowly built a loyal global following after four LPs of folk and classical-influenced "space rock," including such songs as "Starship Trooper" and the huge hit "Roundabout" from 1971's Fragile. The group had just completed the following year's Close to the Edge, featuring the hit "And You and I," when White climbed on board to tour. The shows were recorded for the live Yessongs (1973).

White's first session album with Yes, the double Tales from Topographic Oceans (1974), sold well, but has been criticized through the years as a prime example of progressive rock's excesses. Each side of the album featured only one song. Later that year came the single LP Relayer.

In 1976, during a period when Yes was on hiatus and its members involved in solo LPs, White released Ramshackled.

Going for the One, featuring "Wondrous Stories," and Tormato, with "Don't Kill the Whales," were indicative of the shorter, more pop/rock songs of the late-'70s Yes. White stayed with the band when its principal creative force, singer/songwriter Jon Anderson, quit in 1980, to be replaced by Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes of the Buggles. When this new, short-lived incarnation of Yes ended in 1981, Yes disbanded.

A few years later, White and Yes bassist Chris Squire began working together, eventually regrouping with Anderson. In 1983, a reconstituted Yes had a #1 U.S. hit with "Owner of a Lonely Heart" (RealAudio excerpt) from the popular album 90125.

Yes began to splinter again, with ex-members forming various bands, including Anderson, Bruford, (keyboardist Rick) Wakeman, and (guitarist Steve) Howe. By 1991, those four musicians, along with White, Squire, guitarist Trevor Rabin and keyboardist Tony Kaye, were touring the world together as a new, "super" Yes. The resulting LP, Union, sold well on both sides of the Atlantic. The box set YesYears followed later that year.

Yes' current lineup -- White, Anderson, Howe, Squire, and keyboardist Billy Sherwood, the same personnel who recorded 1997's Open Your Eyes -- has just completed a new studio LP produced by Bruce Fairbairn (Cranberries, Aerosmith), who died suddenly in May.

The album, with songwriting from White, is scheduled for release later this year. White has also played recently with the Washington-based band MerKaBa and on an upcoming LP by Seattle band Treason.

Other birthdays: Rod Argent (Argent/Zombies), 54; Jimmy Lea (Slade), 47; Boy George (Culture Club), 38; Chris DeGarmo (Queensrÿche), 36; Mike Scaccia (Revolting Cocks), 34.